Lymington chef David Spender spills the beans on his latest artistic/culinary journey.

Lockdown 2020. Many of us will remember occupying ourselves with a variety of activities to keep us amused: garden projects, family zoom quizzes, baking banana bread. For many, it was a time to get creative.

New research has suggested that we became increasingly more creative during lockdown which may have been stimulated by the unprecedented situation of living life in a new way.

Award-winning Chef, David Spender, was one of those people, having found inspiration in the down time to unlock artistic talents he had forgotten he had. After having a few drinks one evening, working his way through the binge-worthy Netflix series ‘Tiger King’, he had a lucky accident.

Great British Life: David's painting of Jimi Hendrix is made using Dorset based Jimmy's Iced CoffeeDavid's painting of Jimi Hendrix is made using Dorset based Jimmy's Iced Coffee

‘I was watching TV– as many of us were during lockdown. I’m one of those people who can’t just sit still and watch, I need to be doing something else too, so was doodling. I knocked my coffee over my paper and rather than clean it up, I ended up creating a piece of art out of it. A portrait of Tiger King, the main character on the show, out of coffee… then I didn’t do anything for a while but that was the beginning.’

David continues: ‘during the tail end of lockdown there was this initiative called the Burnt Chef Project, which was all about getting rid of the stigma attached to mental health. The man behind it, Kris Hall got in contact with me and asked if I could do a portrait made of food of a famous chef who committed suicide called Anthony Bourdain.

‘So, I painted a picture out of squid ink, hot sauce, seeds, beetroot and poppy seeds - basically anything to do with food. I framed it and they sold loads of raffle tickets and made thousands, which was amazing. I never thought anyone would buy one and the next thing you know, everyone was asking me to do prints from across the world - Australia, America, Sweden, and Denmark.’

David’s food related art didn’t stop there, with the series eventually becoming a total of nine famous musicians and songwriters. For Amy Winehouse he used wine, for Mick Jagger - Jägermeister, for the band, Oasis – the soft drink, Oasis.

Great British Life: Dr Dre is seen here cast from beetroot juice after his company, Beats Dr Dre is seen here cast from beetroot juice after his company, Beats

Some of the connections aren’t as obvious, as David explains: ‘The idea behind Eminem came after finding some spaghetti in the cupboard... inspired by his famous lyric Mom’s spaghetti. Prince is made from the cocktail Purple Rain after his song. Dr Dre from beetroot juice, as his company is called Beats.’

There’s also David Bowie created from tea, inspired by the huge hit Space Oddity (or tea). Hendrix from Dorset brand, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and Slash from Guns N' Roses, from sweet chilli. The reason? Their number one song, Sweet Child of Mine.

Having worked as a chef for over two decades, David’s artistic abilities had taken a back seat. After studying art for less than a year at Brockenhurst College in 2002, he took a change of direction and swapped to a catering qualification, in the hope to broaden his prospects.

‘After art in the first year of college at Brock, I ended up thinking… what can I do with art? I was really enjoying cooking anyway, I wanted a qualification where I could travel and work anywhere. It ticked the boxes as it was still creative. It was the direction I wanted. With cooking, I was always stuck in my mind of trying to not compete with other people and not to copy, I want to stay in my own lane. As long as I’m improving myself, that’s all I’m worried about. It helped me create my own style in that sense.’

Great British Life: David's latest work is a portrait of Salvador DaliDavid's latest work is a portrait of Salvador Dali

Whilst studying, David worked at a restaurant on Lymington high-street, where he explained he ‘learnt more there than at college’. After completing his qualification, he headed to New Zealand and then onto to France, working as a chef during ski seasons.

He remembers: ‘I ended up working in chalets and hotels on and off for years, doing summer seasons, trying to dart my way around and absorb as much as I could and learn from other people. I was always cooking. My art at this point was zero.’

After returning home for what was supposed to be a stopgap, he ended up at the Monkey House pub/restaurant in Lymington, becoming Head Chef. He explains, ‘I stayed for eight months. This was when Trip Advisor was making some waves so I had a challenge, which I’ve always loved. I thought stay here, get to the top of the leader board. So I did that. Then moved back to France and did some more seasons – skiing, snowboarding, working in hotels. Always cooking throughout this time.’

After returning again to home soil, David took on the role as Chef of Greedo in Lymington, who’s owners had contacted him while he was in France. He remembers: ‘It was all going well, then lockdown happened, we got furloughed and then the art came.’

Great British Life: Prince is painted using the Purple Rain cocktail Prince is painted using the Purple Rain cocktail

Since, then David has launched the enormously successful catering and social dining company Black Butter with his business partner, Matt Clarke. They take their culinary experience from the last 20 years and add a modern twist with cool street-food vibes. This year, you can catch them at Southampton Boat Show, Lymington Sea Food Festival and Christchurch Food Festivals.

‘Our summer this year is a balance between festivals and weddings. We also built a kitchen at Berthon marina – it’s all outdoors so we’ll start that up again soon. There was a eureka moment last summer standing outside cooking with Matt, in flip flops in the sunshine, getting tans. This is the first time in 20 summers where we haven’t been stuck inside in a kitchen and it felt good.’

Whilst Black Butter is taking up a lot of David’s schedule, he is still continuing to create an impressive collection of art, working on several projects using different materials, including one on Spanish artist, Salvador Dali.

He summarises his love for art and cooking: ‘I love the process of creating something unique and the aspect of the endless possibilities. No boundaries - you can literally create anything. Plus, it keeps my mad brain happy!’

David’s work can be viewed at eatPIZZA restaurant in Lymington (pictured). Find more about David’s art and Black Butter social dining at and